By: Cody Wilcox
On a day where things didn’t start out perfectly for the Terps, Maryland grinded out a 83-69 win against the Michigan Wolverines in College Park due to a 30-point fourth quarter.
The Terps dug themselves into an early hole in the first quarter as they committed 10 turnovers and were outscored 21-14. But with their ball protection and balanced scoring, the Terps were able to overcome the early deficit.
“We stopped turning the ball over,” head coach Brenda Frese said about the difference in the fourth quarter. “We’re pretty good when we can get shots at the basket with all the weapons that we have. That’s just an area we have to continue to clean up for 40 minutes.”
After the early struggles with ball protection, Maryland would go on to only turn the ball over five more times the rest of the game.
The Terps cut Michigan’s deficit through their first 3-point shooting. Early in the second quarter, Maryland had three straight possessions in which the Terps walked away with a three-point field goals. The acts of Channise Lewis, Kaila Charles and Taylor Mikesell gave Maryland a nine-point swing and tied the game at 25.
After only taking one 3-pointer in the first quarter, the Terps went 5-of-9 on three-point field goals in the second quarter. Junior Sara Vujacic jumped into the action off the bench as well. Vujacic only played 11 minutes against the Wolverines but provided the Terps with some key offense as she went 2-3 from beyond the arc and finished with eight points.
“As hard as Sara [Vujacic] has worked behind the scenes, it was extra special to see that she was ready when her number was called today,” Frese said. “It just gave us a tone of energy. It was the spark that we needed.”
Vujacic said that despite not knowing when her number will be called, she remains ready for her team.
“You just have to trust your coach and be mentally tough. Just got to be in the gym—all the time working,” Vujacic said. “And then when you’re on the court, you just have to show that you can play in this conference.”
Maryland entered the half with a 35-34 lead.
Throughout the game, the Terps struggled against Michigan’s Hallie Thome. Although Maryland tried to front her in the post and deny the entry pass, Michigan’s wing players were able to lob the ball over top of a Terps’ outstretched hand or dish it to the senior forward off of their penetration. Thome tied her season-high 25 points, but the Terps were successful in limiting her in the fourth quarter offensive and rebounding production.
“Shakira [Austin] and Stephanie [Jones] did a great job of keeping them lying down on the glass and we were able to get out into transition and run,” Mikesell said.
Maryland’s fourth quarter flood picked-up from a 7-0 run that ended the third quarter, including key contributions from Shakira Austin. The freshman forward was able to finish through contact on two plays in near the end of the third quarter and light a spark into the Maryland crowd and the Terp bench. Austin nearly finished with a triple double as she notched 13 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks.
“We practice finishing every day, and just transitioning it into the game,” Austin said. “I went into [the defender’s] body a lot, and I’m long enough to finish over her.”